Caring for Dentures
Tips for Denture Wearers
More than 36 million Americans do not have any teeth! Many of those people wear dentures (sometimes also called “plates”) to replace their missing teeth. Dentures may be slightly decreasing in popularity due to other tooth replacement options available today. However, due to the relatively low cost of dentures, they are still the treatment of choice for millions of people without teeth.
What are Dentures?
Dentures are prosthetic teeth. Just as someone who has lost a leg can have a prosthetic leg made to enable him to walk, someone who has lost all of his teeth can have dentures made to enable him to speak and chew. As with any type of prosthetic body part, dentures do not function as well as, or even in the same way that, natural teeth do.
Dentists and dental lab technicians can make dentures from several different materials. The most common materials for dentures are plastic and acrylic. The denture base (the replacement gums) use pink, gum-colored acrylic most commonly, and the teeth are usually plastic. Because both plastic and acrylic are susceptible to staining, it is important to clean your dentures regularly and avoid habits that add more stain.
How to Clean Your Dentures
You should clean your dentures every day, just as you would clean your teeth. Without daily cleaning, dentures become embedded with stain, plaque and food debris, just as teeth do!
Brushing Your Denture
The easiest way to clean a denture is to remove it and brush it with a soft denture-cleaning brush. The brush should have very soft bristles so it does not scratch the acrylic or plastic. Scratches will make the surface rougher, and a rougher surface will collect more stains.
Brush both the outside and the inside of the dentures every day. People who wear dentures are at a high risk for a fungal infection called thrush. Brushing the inside of the denture where it touches your gums is important to remove any possible fungal cells that could develop.
Do not ever use a whitening toothpaste or a hard-bristled toothbrush on your denture. These are abrasive and will leave scratches on the denture surface. Use only mild denture cleaners on your denture.
Soaking Your Denture
Soaking your denture in a cleansing solution overnight is a great way to keep the denture clean and free from buildup. There are many over-the-counter denture cleansers that are specifically made to remove stains, plaque and food debris. Follow the instructions for your specific cleanser.
When you remove the denture from the cleansing solution in the morning, lightly brush it with a soft toothbrush and rinse it under cold water before placing it back into your mouth.
Do not make your own denture cleanser using bleach. Yes, it will kill bacteria, but it will also discolor the pink color of the acrylic, ruining the natural gum tissue color.
Important Denture Maintenance
One of the most common myths among denture wearers is that they no longer need to see a dentist. While it is true that you do not need to see a dentist as frequently as someone who has teeth, you still need to have oral evaluations performed once a year.
During these oral evaluations, your dentist will check the fit of your dentures, examine all of the gum tissue inside your mouth for sore spots or thrush infections, and perform an oral cancer screening. Just like dental problems involving teeth, catching problems underneath dentures early leads to less expensive and less extensive treatment.
You should also see your dentist for an x-ray of your jawbones every five years. This is an essential screening tool for masses, tumors, cysts, and even oral cancer.
What to Do if Your Denture Becomes Loose
It is common for a once well-fitting denture to become loose over time. This is a result of changes and restructuring in the jawbones underneath the denture. The jawbones’ primary function is to hold teeth. When no teeth are present, the jawbone begins to deteriorate. It shrinks in both width and height.
As the jawbone shrinks, air spaces or gaps open between the gums and the denture base. This causes looseness.
If your denture is loose, you should consult your dentist to determine which is the best option to correct the problem.
- Denture Reline – A reline recreates the inner surface of your denture to add material and eliminate the air spaces developed by shrinking bone. Denture relines typically take one day in a lab, so you have to be ready to go without your teeth for about 24 hours.
- New Denture – If you have already tried denture relines, and the result is not as good as you were hoping, it may be time to invest in new dentures. Starting from scratch gives your dentist the very best chance of creating a perfect fit.
- Implant-Supported Denture – In some cases, even a perfectly intimate fit of a denture does not give you enough retention to speak and chew. Because traditional dentures rely on contact with the gums to stay in place, a good-fitting denture that does not work well may indicate that the shape of your gums is not appropriate for holding a denture. In these cases, you should consider an implant-supported denture. These are dentures that have an interlocking connection between the denture and the jawbone via dental implants. Implant-supported dentures provide the most secure fit of any type of denture.
What to Do if Your Denture Breaks
Dentures are very hard and also very brittle. They can break under relatively little impact. We have seen dentures broken simply by dropping them into the bathroom sink.
Dentures with thin areas are more likely to break because these thin areas are weak spots. If you want to know if your denture has weak spots, hold it up to the light. Any area that looks see-through is a weak spot.
If you have an accident that breaks your denture, call your dentist immediately. Some repairs can be made in the dental office, but many require our sending the denture out to a dental lab for a permanent repair.
It is important to know that any break in a denture, even once it has been repaired, will always be a weak spot, susceptible to more breaking in the future.
What to Do if a Tooth Falls off Your Denture
Every once in a while, a single plastic tooth will fall off a denture. We call this “debonding”. The plastic of the teeth has a chemical bond with the denture acrylic. In order to recreate that original chemical bond, the denture and the tooth (if you have it) need to be sent back to the dental lab for rebonding. If you do not have the tooth, a matching replacement tooth can be provided by the dental lab.
This, like a reline, requires you to go without your denture for about 24 hours.
Please do not attempt to rebond the tooth into the denture with super glue! Not only is this a messy endeavor; it can interfere with the chemical bond between the tooth and the acrylic denture base.
More Questions about Dentures?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our denture experts. We can answer any denture question and give you tips to having the healthiest long-term lifespan with your dentures.